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Huizhou Chinese

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
徽州話 / 徽州话
Native toChina
RegionHuizhou, southern Anhui, neighbouring portions of Zhejiang and Jiangxi
Native speakers
5.4 million (2021)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3czh
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters. For an introductory guide on IPA symbols, see Help:IPA.
Huizhou Chinese
Simplified Chinese徽州
Traditional Chinese徽州話
Hanyu PinyinHuīzhōuhuà
Alternative Chinese name
Simplified Chinese
Traditional Chinese徽語
Hanyu PinyinHuīyǔ

Huizhou Chinese (Chinese: 徽州话), or the Hui dialect (Chinese: 徽语), is a group of closely related Sinitic languages spoken over a small area in and around the historical region of Huizhou (for which it is named), in about ten or so mountainous counties in southern Anhui, plus a few more in neighbouring Zhejiang and Jiangxi.

Although the Hui area is small compared with other Chinese dialect groups, it displays a very high degree of internal variation. Nearly every county has its own distinct dialect unintelligible to a speaker from a few counties away. For this reason, bilingualism and multilingualism are common among speakers of Hui. It is estimated that there are around 4.6 million speakers of Huizhou varieties.[citation needed]



Huizhou Chinese was originally classified as Lower Yangtze Mandarin but it is currently classified separately from it.[2] The Chinese Academy of Social Sciences supported the separation of Huizhou from Lower Yangtze Mandarin in 1987.[3] Its classification is disputed, with some linguists, such as Matisoff classifying it as Wu Chinese, others such as Bradley (2007) as Gan, and still others setting it apart as a primary branch of Chinese.



During the Ming and Qing dynasties, Jianghuai speakers moved into Hui dialect areas.[4]

Some works of literature produced in Yangzhou, such as Qingfengzha, a novel, contain Jianghuai Mandarin. People in Yangzhou identified by the dialect they speak, locals spoke the dialect, as opposed to sojourners, who spoke other varieties like Huizhou or Wu. This led to the formation of identity based on one's dialect. Large numbers of merchants from Huizhou lived in Yangzhou and effectively were responsible for keeping the town afloat.[5] Merchants in the later imperial period also sponsored operas and performances in the Hui dialect.[6]

Languages and dialects


Zhengzhang Shangfang divided the Hui languages into five subgroups, which are also used in the Language Atlas of China:[7][8]

Ji–She (績歙)
spoken in Jixi, She County, Huizhou, Jingde (Hongchuan area in the west), and Ningguo (Hongmen area in the south), Anhui province, as well as Chun'an (Tangcun in the west, etc.), Zhejiang province.
carries notable Wu influence. Jixihua is the main Ji-She variety.
Xiu–Yi (休黟)
spoken in Tunxi, Taiping (Guocun in the southwest), Xiuning, Yi County, and Qimen (around Fufeng in the southeast), as well as Wuyuan, Jiangxi province.
Tunxihua is the main Xiu-Yi variety.
Qi–De (祁德)
spoken in Qimen and Dongzhi (partially), Anhui province, as well as Fuliang, Dexing, and Wuyuan, Jiangxi province.
greatly influenced by the surrounding Gan languages.
Yanzhou (嚴洲)
spoken in Chun'an and Jiande (formerly Yanzhou Prefecture), Zhejiang province.
heavily influenced by Wu.
Jing–Zhan (旌占)
spoken in Jingde, Qimen (in and around Anling, Chengan, and Chiling), Shitai (Zhanda area), Yi County (Meixi, Kecun, and other northern towns), and Ningguo, Anhui province.
forms a thin corridor along the northern edge of the Hui group, carrying influence from Xuanzhou Wu.

Huizhou varieties differ from township to township.[9] People in different townships, towns, etc. (even in one county) often cannot speak with one another.



Phonologically speaking, Hui is noted for its massive loss of syllable codas, including -i, -u, and nasals:

Character Meaning Hui of Tunxi Wu of Shanghai Huai (Jianghuai) of Hefei Mandarin of Beijing
burn /ɕiɔ/ /sɔ/ /ʂɔ/ /ʂɑu/
firewood /sa/ /za/ /tʂʰɛ/ /tʂʰai/
line /siːɛ/ /ɕi/ /ɕĩ/ /ɕiɛn/
sheet /tɕiau/ /tsɑ̃/ /tʂɑ̃/ /tʂɑŋ/
web /mau/ /mɑ̃/ /wɑ̃/ /wɑŋ/
threshold /kʰɔ/ /kʰɛ/ /kʰã/ /kʰan/

Many Hui dialects have diphthongs with a higher lengthened first part. For example, ("speech") is /uːɜ/ in Xiuning County (Standard Chinese /xuɑ/), ("yard") is /yːɛ/ in Xiuning County (Standard Chinese /yɛn/); ("knot") is /tɕiːaʔ/ in Yi County (Standard Chinese /tɕiɛ/), ("agreement") is /iːuʔ/ in Yi County (Standard Chinese /yɛ/). A few areas take this to extremes. For example, Likou in Qimen County has /fũːmɛ̃/ for ("rice") (Standard Chinese /fan/), with the /m/ appearing directly as a result of the lengthened, nasalized /ũː/.

Because nasal codas have mostly been lost, Hui reuses the /-r/ ending as a diminutive. For example, in the Tunxi dialect, "rope" appears as /soːn/ from /soʔ/ + /-r/.


  1. ^ Huizhou at Ethnologue (26th ed., 2023) Closed access icon
  2. ^ Barbara F. Grimes, ed. (2000). Ethnologue, Volume 1 (14th ed.). SIL International. p. 404. ISBN 1-55671-103-4. Formerly considered to be part of the Jianghuai dialect of Mandarin, but now considered by many to be a separate major variety of Chinese. Dialects are reported to differ greatly from each other. Different from the Huizhou dialect of...
  3. ^ Xiao-bin Ji, ed. (2003). Facts About China (illustrated ed.). H.W. Wilson. p. 70. ISBN 0-8242-0961-3. For this reason, the Chinese Academy of Social Science suggested in 1987 that two new groups, the Jin and the Hui, be separated from the northwestern and the Jiang-Huai Mandarin subgroups. Distinctive Features: Mandarin dialects are...
  4. ^ Hilary Chappell, ed. (2004). Chinese Grammar: Synchronic and Diachronic Perspectives (illustrated, reprint ed.). Oxford University Press. p. 17. ISBN 0-19-927213-1. According to Hirata, however, Hui is composed of many layers: its dialects are spoken in an area originally occupied by the Yue i* tribe, suggestive of a possible substrate, later to be overlaid by migrations from Northern China in the Medieval Nanbeichao period and the Tang and Song dynasties. This was followed by the Jiang-Huai Mandarin dialects of the migrants who arrived during the Ming and Qing periods, and more recently by Wu dialects in particular, acquired by peripatetic Hui merchants who have represented an active...
  5. ^ Margaret B. Wan (2009). "Local Fiction of the Yangzhou Region: Qingfengzha". In Lucie B. Olivová; Vibeke Børdahl (eds.). Lifestyle and Entertainment in Yangzhou. Issue 44 of NIAS studies in Asian topics, Nordisk Institut for Asienstudier København (illustrated ed.). NIAS Press. p. 184. ISBN 978-87-7694-035-5. Some grammatical features of Yangzhou dialect are shared with Jianghuai Mandarin. Others may be of more limited usage but are used in Dingyuan County (the setting of Qingfengzha), which belongs to the same subgroup of Jianghuai.
  6. ^ Guo, Qitao (2005). Ritual Opera and Mercantile Lineage: The Confucian Transformation of Popular Culture in Late Imperial Huizhou. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press. ISBN 0804750327.
  7. ^ Yan, Margaret Mian (2006). Introduction to Chinese Dialectology. LINCOM Europa. pp. 222–223. ISBN 978-3-89586-629-6.
  8. ^ Kurpaska, Maria (2010). Chinese Language(s): A Look Through the Prism of "The Great Dictionary of Modern Chinese Dialects". Walter de Gruyter. p. 69. ISBN 978-3-11-021914-2.
  9. ^ 孟庆惠; 安徽省地方志编纂委员会 [Anhui Place Almanac Compilation Committee]. 安徽省志 方言志 - 第五篇 皖南徽语 (PDF). 方志出版社. p. 412. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-05-30.